By Wheat Hotchkiss | November 27, 2013
Height: 5-8 Position: Point Guard Age: 26 Years Pro: 5 College: Arizona State Status: Signed multi-year contract with the Fever before the 2013 season. Key Stats: Averaged 9.8 points and 3.7 assists per game in 32 games. Shot 34.8 percent from the field and 35.7 percent from 3-point range.
Perhaps the greatest test of character is how you handle adversity after you’ve already tasted success.
In 2012, Briann January and the Indiana Fever tasted success at the highest level, capturing the WNBA title. For January, that triumph had to feel extra sweet given the hardships she had already faced.
After tearing her ACL a month into the 2011 season, January fought through months of rehab and returned to the court, having a breakout year on both sides of the ball in 2012. The Fever point guard set career marks in scoring and shooting percentages while pestering opponents on the other end and earning a spot on the WNBA’s All-Defensive First Team. Over the winter, she signed a multi-year contract to remain in Indiana.
After all of 2012’s prosperity, the 2013 season again tested January’s resolve. Injuries mounted before the Fever could even raise their championship banner and continued to pile up as Indiana got off to a disastrous 1-7 start that had them fighting an uphill battle all season.
PHOTO GALLERY: Briann January Season Gallery »
“I learned a ton from this year,” January said after the season. “I know a lot of people were strained due to all the injuries, and it kind of put everybody in an unfamiliar setting. And that really affected a lot of people.”
With the Fever especially shorthanded in the backcourt (Jeanette Pohlen and Erin Phillips missed the first half of the season, Katie Douglas missed all but four games with a lower back injury), January had to carry a heavier load in multiple respects.
The Fever’s lack of depth challenged January physically, as the fifth-year guard played a career-high 946 minutes. January took 11 percent of the Fever’s shots in 2012; that number jumped to 14.3 in 2013.
She also faced a heavier burden as a leader. Tammy Sutton-Brown was gone. Katie Douglas and Jessica Davenport were injured. As a result, January found herself with the second-longest tenure of any healthy player on the Fever roster. The coaching staff needed January to provide a calming influence and also mentor younger players like rookie Layshia Clarendon.
January said after the season that the added physical and mental stress got to her.
“I’m very disappointed with my season, from all aspects,” January said. “I know I could have done more for my team and been better as a leader and as a player out on the court.”
January’s candid self-assessment is probably overly harsh. Statistically, all of her per-game averages remained close to her 2012 marks. She remained a stalwart on the defensive end, anchoring the top of the league’s stingiest defense and earning an All-Defensive Second Team selection. The Fever rallied to make the playoffs and upset top-seeded Chicago in the first round, the team’s turnaround coinciding with January’s improved play in the second half of the year.
But January did show signs of struggle, particularly early in the season. After her shooting percentages jumped to another level in 2012 (40 percent from the field, 43 from 3-point range), they fell back in 2013 (35 percent overall and 36 from long range). Her free throw shooting remained excellent, but she got to the line less than she had in any full season in her career and her percentage dipped six percentage points to 81.1, dropping her from sixth in the league a year earlier to 23rd.
She did, however, get stronger as the year progressed. January averaged just 7.9 points per game on 28 percent shooting during the Fever’s seven-game losing streak at the start of the season. She closed the regular season averaging 15.5 points on 42 percent shooting in September. She was particularly strong against Chicago, setting career highs with 23 points and five 3-pointers on Sept. 6 and scoring 16 points and dishing out six assists in Game 1 of the conference semifinals on Sept. 20.
In hopes of a better start in 2014, January said she plans to spend the offseason working on getting stronger off the court.
“(I’ll focus on) my mental game more than anything, because I think that is what really got in my way a lot this year,” she said. “Just getting in my own head, just making it simple and being calm, being the calm energy out on the court and not letting a lot of the outside factors get to me, and being able to run our team with a clear mind. I think that will help not only myself, but the team as well.”
This offseason, January is taking time off instead of playing overseas. She was invited to participate in the USA Women's National Team mini-camp in October, something she described as “an amazing opportunity” to test herself against the best of the best.
Like most of the Fever, January faced unexpected adversity in 2013. Though she is disappointed in her season, January has no doubt the experience made her stronger.
“I learned and I am going to take a lot from this season,” she said. “It helped me grow, and I’m excited to get back for next one.”
FeverBasketball.com is doing Player Reviews for each player on the 2013 Indiana Fever. Check out other stories from this series:
Player Review 2013: Shavonte Zellous Player Review 2013: Erlana Larkins Player Review 2013: Layshia Clarendon Player Review 2013: Karima Christmas Player Review 2013: Jasmine Hassell Player Review 2013: Erin Phillips Player Review 2013: Katie Douglas Player Review 2013: Tamika Catchings Player Review 2013: Jeanette Pohlen